Microsoft Deutschland seems to have accidentally pirated itself by shipping the same copy of Windows XP over and over again. Sort of, anyway. German sites 3Dwin.de and Heise Online report that numerous copies of XP with the same product key have been turning up, and naturally these won't activate, because they've been activated already.
The copies appear to be genuine, and Microsoft Deutschland is currently trying to figure out what happened. It's not yet clear whether it's just one key that's been duplicated (chewing gum stuck on the ticker?) or whether it's some kind of production fault that's been churning out multiple duplicates. 3DWin claims a count of over 30 for one attempted activation, and says the problem affects several dealers, including Amazon.de.
Whether its an isolated glitch or something more widespread, it's embarrassing for Microsoft, which has been trying to paint Windows Product Activation as a simple, hassle-free process that doesn't trouble users at all. In this case, however, the honest customers have paid their money for the real product, then found themselves bounced when they try to activate online, then been told their product's already being used by somebody else when they phone up the hotline.
The Register, mindful of the war stories that came out of the Australian test of WPA, confidently predicts that there'll be a lot more of this sort of stuff before we're done with WPA. ®